Winchester Model 72 Accuracy Testing


You may recall the Winchester Model 72 I bought a few weeks ago from A Boy And His Rifle Part V. I finally got the time to set down at the bench with some match ammo this weekend. Above you can see the 10 shot groups all fired from a bench rest at 50 yards. If did not like the sub sonic ammo.

The peep sights on the 72 are great for shooting but not great for adjusting it to zero. Its not a precise method at all and I still need to tweak it. Like all of these old .22s it is a very good shooter. My advice is to always buy a vintage Winchester or Remington rimfire rifle if you have the chance.


  1. I’m going to go on another diversion about guns and quality here…

    When I was a kid, in addition to the 72 we had, we also had an surplus H&R .22 semi-auto rifle. It was a trainer for the US Marines – it had the size and heft of a Garand. It shot very well out to 100 yards with the .22 ammo of the day (back in the late 60’s and through the 70’s, rimfire ammo was very basic compared to today). I never thought much about it until I was at TSJC, when I learned that it had been a Model 65 or 165. It had a target peep and a military front sight like the Garand. With either the 72 or the H&R, I could lay down groups of a little over an inch at 50 yards most of the time. I was spoiled by those rifles, and I didn’t realize it at the time.

    Fast-forward to when I turned 18… and I bought a 10/22 with my own money. Many, many weekends were spent trying to make it group worth a damn. Then I noticed that a friend’s Ruger Mini-14 didn’t shoot worth a damn either, whereas the Garands/1903’s I had shot in my youth could easily hold groups under 2 MOA. I then bought a Winchester 94 “Ranger” – and that made even the 10/22 look like a match rifle.

    People wonder where my acerbic opinion about modern guns came from. Well, that’s the starting point: when I first bought a 10/22 with my own money, and then a Winchester 94 Ranger that couldn’t hold a 5 MOA group at 100 yards, and then helping a friend with a Mini-14, and so on and so on. All that time, I thought I sucked rocks as a marksman, because I was taught marksmanship by my two Marine mentors who liked to say “Son, there’s nothing wrong with that gun that a new shooter won’t fix.” Ah, but when they said that, we were shooting their rifles and 1911’s … from before or during WWII. Not after 1960.

    Then I was in my senior year at college, and we had a shooting team as well as a marksmanship elective. The rifles used for this class were Winchester 52B’s. Full target globe and peep sights. Proper slings, and they had a variety of leather coats, and beat-up mats. At 50 feet to 50 yards, I was laying down scores with ease. Suddenly I had an epiphany: It wasn’t me that sucked. It was, in fact, the firearms I had been buying with my money that sucked. Yes, indeed, “there was something wrong with new guns that could be fixed by buying an old gun.”

    This Winchester of yours is a great example of when US-made mass production firearms didn’t suck. That was their “bargain” bolt-action .22. If you trade up to a 75 or 52, the results only get better. The “plastic gun” generation wonders why I’m constantly ridiculing modern gun offerings. Right there, that group on the right, is the reason why. That was Winchester’s “cheap” .22 bolt-action rifle.

    Today, I see the young shooting generation writing articles for blogs and magazines about the “best .22 rifles” – and they list guns like the Marlin 60 and 10/22, right at the top. Their criterion for “best” appears to have something to do with how many doo-dads you can hang off these wretched offerings. What in the hell do accessories have to do with a rifle being ‘good’? It’s like listening to people complain about the lack of a proper cup holder on a Lamborghini. No one who knows anything about cars buys a Lambo to go through the drive-through at McDonald’s and get coffee. You buy a Lambo to a) go fast, and b) get laid. Cupholders are completely superfluous to these objectives. Likewise, with a .22 rifle, you’re buying the rifle to hit something precisely with a 40 grain lead bullet – not merely make noise and spray 40 grain lead pills all over the countryside with tacticool accessories. If what you want to do is spray 40 grain pieces of lead all over the countryside, then buy a shotgun and load up some #1 buckshot. Hell, put the #1 into a Winchester 1897, hold down the trigger and trombone the pump. You can’t launch 40 grain pellets faster than that.

    The 10/22 can be tarted up until it starts to act like a .22 rifle – at considerable expense that makes you wonder why you didn’t just buy a proper .22 rifle in the first place. The Marlin 60 started as an embarrassing mess of C-clips and sheet metal stampings cobbled together into a high-end zip gun in some hack’s basement. I will never forget the first time I tore into a Model 60 on the clock at TSJC. What a wreck. You could tell when any guy in the class was doing a teardown on a Model 60 or the Beretta 92 from the increasing stream and volume of profanity emanating from his bench.

    Any list of “best” .22 rifles that doesn’t include the Winchester 52 or Remington 37 just exhibits profound ignorance. But you see these sorts of lists all over the Interwebs, spreading nonsense everywhere you look, with not a mention of these two rifles. Alright, so some of these youngsters might start saying “OK, Boomer.” Well, I don’t see mention of the Remington 40-X either, no mention of modern Anschuetz offerings. No mention of Cooper’s fine .22 offerings. I’d give these youngsters a pass if they listed either a Winchester 75, or Remington 541, but they won’t even recognize these. They won’t mention the Winchester 72, with results seen above. They keep using that word “best” – but I don’t think it means what they think it means.

    But they’ll list .22’s in AR drag – none of which will do what the “bargain” rifle above did. But I suppose you can hang tactical lights and a chainsaw bayonet off the .22 in AR drag, and that seems important to youngsters today. Putting rounds on target? Not as important.

    And as for the groups above: It would be interesting to take some rim thickness measurements between the different varieties of ammo. My experience is that when a .22 rifle finds the “right” ammo, it groups very well. Finding that ammo can be a chore. It is true even in my modern Anschuetz rifle. When I find that ammo, I buy a couple of cases of ammo, and I’m set for a couple years of shooting.

      • I have a ten year old CZ-452. It’ll shoot 1.5 inch 10 round groups at 50m with most any inexpensive hunting ammo. With match ammo it’ll shoot single hole groups. It’s a hunting rifle, not a target gun so it’s fit for my purpose.

  2. I have a Winchester model 72 from my fathers estate, that nobody wanted, that dirty old rifle with a rag stuffed in the barrel. I said “I’ll take it.” I thought with the name Winchester, it can’t be all bad. Got home and cleaned it up carefully, and lo and behold, the bore was pristine. Hmmm, I said. With nicks and scratches in the stock, of no consequence, the bolt and trigger were solid and precise. Hmmm I said again. When I got to the range I was shocked! I didn’t screw around, just went out to the 100 yard range and put it on the bench. This sucker is a tack driver – you know, a gun that can shoot better than you can. Haven’t measured MOA yet, probably won’t. I can hit a target at 100 yds. Next project is good iron sights. Lots of good guns have very poor sights, this one is no different. My goal now is get sights and donate the old Model 72 to my grand son’s high school rifle team; I know he will be well armed.


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